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Virtual Reality

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(Last Updated On: August 28, 2017)

Sony Territory

PlayStation VR will finally be with us this October and we can’t wait to stick our faces in it. Sony’s PS4 virtual reality headset is coming in way cheaper than the likes of Oculus Rift or HTC’s Vive, with a RRP of just £350/$399.

PlaystationVR

Below you’ll find our guide to the best preorder deals out there for the headset, with prices starting around the aforementioned £350/$399. Pricier options also include the PS4 camera. Don’t expect many discounts before release, but we’ll keep you posted if any pop up.

As things stand, many retailers are saying they can no longer guarantee delivery on day one. But this PlayStation VR deals page can still help you prepare by picking up the other kit you’ll need to enjoy the best PlayStation VR experience.

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With headset stock already an issue, it may be a good idea to pick up the PS4 camera (required for the headset to work) sooner rather than later in case you can’t find one later on. You could also grab a couple of PS Move motion controllers, as some VR games will support them. If you get these items now, you can play a small number of Move-based PS4 games like Sportsfriends or Just Dance.

UK UPDATE: For the cheapest deal, head on over to Tesco Direct and use the voucher code TDX-GNKF to knock the price down to £329.

PlayStation VR headset deals

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The grid below will be regularly updated with the latest prices for the PlayStation VR headset as they become available to order from different retailers.

UK UPDATE: For the cheapest deal, head on over to Tesco Direct and use the voucher code TDX-GNKF to knock the price down to £329.

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PS4 camera deals

It’s crucial you buy a PS4 camera along with your VR headset, otherwise, it will not work. Preorder bundles with the camera included don’t actually save you money off the individual RRPs and they could be even rarer than the standalone headset at launch. Which is why you should try to track down a deal sooner. Don’t pay more than the standard £40/$60 though. If there’s nothing tempting below, maybe try for a new/preowned unit via eBay?

PlayStation Move controller deals

The PlayStation Move motion controllers are very much an optional purchase at launch as we don’t yet know how many games will support them. Many that do, will also have options to use the standard DualShock 4 PS4 controller instead.

move controller deals

Move wands aren’t as readily available as the cameras at the moment, but there are deals to be found if you shop around -or let us do it via that magical box below. We’d advise a little caution if you’re considering preowned units, as the lack of use in recent years may have dulled the charge capacity of the battery compared to new controllers. If you want to try your luck (and probably save a fair amount), here are some handy links for eBay.

Could Microsoft’s Kinect be reborn as a virtual reality controller?

The Kinect port’s removal from the Xbox One S might have lead some to believe that the accessory has reached the end of its life, but a recent Microsoft blog post suggests otherwise.

The post details the research efforts of Microsoft’s research lab in Cambridge, who have been hard at work repurposing the Kinect camera accessory as a device for tracking hand and finger movements as part of a project called Handpose.

The blog post details how the researchers expect the technology to be used in an office setting, to use your fingers to skip between slides in a powerpoint presentation or to hang up on a colleague over Skype, but where the technology gets really interesting is in its ability to simulate hand movement in a virtual environment.

But more interestingly, this Handpose technology is also shown being used by people wearing virtual reality headsets, completely removing the need for a controller at all.

Microsoft’s VR Territory

At present, Microsoft has not announced any firm VR hardware for the Xbox but with Sony gearing up for the release of its own PlayStation VR there are rumors that Microsoft has more decisive plans to get the Xbox in on the action.

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Microsoft briefly mentioned at its E3 2016 press conference that the computing power of Project Scorpio will pave the way for the company to integrate support for the Oculus Rift headset. This is opposed to Sony, who has built its own headset from the ground up.

When it comes to controllers, Sony already has the hardware with its PlayStation Move motion controllers which were originally released for the PS3.

But could Microsoft be preparing a similar move for its own motion-controller?

Motion controllers killed the gamepad

When the first Oculus Rift developer kits were released, users relied upon traditional controllers to interact with its games, but when HTC entered the VR race it made its motion controllers a central part of the Vive experience.

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However, while these controllers are a great deal more immersive than a traditional gamepad, you’re conscious that you’re interacting with a piece of plastic in your hand.

By removing the controller entirely, Handpose allows you to interact directly with the environment instead of using a controller as a proxy.

Two steps forward, one step back

This development might eliminate one set of VR’s problems, but in doing so it completely removes any haptic feedback from the environment.

When you use the HTC’s controller to pick up a mug in Job Simulator you might not be able to feel the mug itself, but you can feel your finger on the trigger of the controller.

Kinect 2

But were you to use the Kinect to simulate picking up a mug there would be nothing in your hand at all, nothing pressing against your skin, and no weight in your hand.

Surprisingly though, the researchers have found that the lack of haptic feedback hasn’t been as much of a problem as they’d anticipated. Partly this is due to the way they’ve designed the experiences with the Kinect in mind, with controls that are thin enough to allow your fingers to touch for example.

But also the researchers have found that they can use other senses such as sight and sound to convince people that they’re touching something real.

What this suggests is that being able to physically see your hands and hear them interact with the environment builds such a great sense of presence that your brain doesn’t mind when you can’t actually feel anything with them.

A new lease of life for Kinect

It’s early days yet for the new technology which may never see the light of day, but the videos of the technology look promising.

VR can only get so immersive while it relies upon relatively inarticulate motion controllers. This technology could end up allowing a much more fluid and natural interaction with a virtual world.

Kinect 1

People talk about the importance of ‘presence’ in VR and if it works this technology could take this idea of presence to the next level. With the HTC Vive you might feel present in a space, but the only part of your body that feels truly present is your eyes.

But with Handpose you might one day be able to look down and see your real hands in VR, and maybe even one day your whole body. You won’t just be a floating set of eyes and controllers in a virtual space, but a single connected body.

It’s too soon to form any definitive statements on the technology yet, but Handpose has given an exciting glimpse into Microsoft’s vision for virtual interaction.

The Microsoft HoloLens secret: A superpowerful 24-core processor

Now we know why Microsoft’s HoloLens augmented-reality goggles are so cool. Turns out they run on a superpowerful 24-core processor that can perform a trillion operations per second.

Microsoft revealed the details of the chip, which it calls a Holographic Processing Unit, on Monday at the HotChips conference in Cupertino, California. The HPU is a custom-designed chip with a 28nm processor that has 24 cores. To put this in perspective, the processor in a typical consumer computer has 8 cores at most. What’s more, the HPU has some 65 million logic gates, 8MB of SRAM cache memory and a layer of 1GB of DDR3 RAM on top. Yet the package measures only 12mm by 12mm.

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The HPU handles all the environment sensing and other input and output necessary for the goggles. It also aggregates data from sensors and processes the wearer’s gestures. During operation, each of the HPU’s cores is given a particular task to focus on.

The HoloLens also includes a low-power system-on-chip that runs Windows 10 and works with the HPU to deliver the augmented reality. With that in mind, next time you enjoy the goggles, appreciate the fact that you’re literally wearing a supercomputer on your face.

  • References

Cnet (and some other sections)

Techradar (and some other sections)

  • Last Update 29 August 2016

 

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